Church-based Small Groups are a vital part of spiritual growth. If you're a Small Group leader, you believe this, so you're working hard to nurture the relationships and spiritual vitality of participating members. Your group is probably much more to you than a Christian responsibility; it probably feels more like a family—which is exactly how it should be.
Many people wonder what makes a Small Group leader great, or impactful. Another question people ponder is why some Small Groups continually grow while others flounder and shrink. The answer to these questions, in short, is this: a leader's effectiveness revolves around character and habits exhibited outside of Small Group.
Because Small Groups are important, and because it takes a great Small Group leader to make it thrive, we've highlighted a few important characteristic-building actions that these leaders perform consistently.
Great Small Group leaders pray for group members daily.
When you're leading your Small Group, keep a prayer journal (or any discreet way of recording information—iPad, smartphone, memo pad, notebook, etc.) near you. As prayer requests, praises, or concerns arise, jot them down. Pray for these items throughout the week, and when you think of it, text or email those you're praying for so that they remember how much you care.
There's no need to share these requests with anyone outside of Small Group. Earn trust and build confidence by keeping things relatively private, that is, between you, your group, and God. If non-private needs arise—pregnancies, deaths, moves, or any other significant life changes—consider inviting other Small Groups from your church to participate in care-giving activities like setting up Take Them A Meal, offering free babysitting, or helping to pack or unpack. Always be on a lookout for ways to bless and encourage those in your group.
Keep in mind, a great Small Group leader views prayer as a non-negotiable aid in their ministry to others. They build it into their daily schedules and make it a priority.
Great Small Group leaders contact group members regularly.
If someone misses Small Group for a week or two, it may be second nature to reach out, asking how they're doing and feeling. It may not be second nature, however, to reach out to those who are doing well or haven't shared a prayer request in weeks. They need your encouragement just as much as everyone else.
Here are a few things you can do to bless them this week.
- Shoot them a text
- Send an e-card
- Leave a short message on their Facebook wall
- Mail a greeting card (so retro, right?)
Great Small Group leaders are prepared for the group meeting.
How do you prepare? It could be cleaning the house, going grocery shopping (having snacks and coffee on hand is a Small Group must), listening to a podcast of the previous Sunday's service, reading through assigned Scripture passages, arranging child care, or spending time in prayer. No doubt there's a checklist you go through each week so that you don't miss anything.
Here are a few intangible things to consider as you prepare to lead your group this week.
- Don’t do all the talking. The best leaders facilitate conversations rather than dispensing information. They strive to facilitate the conversation and keep it moving from member to member rather than talking tothe members.
- Decide to be comfortable with silence. Embrace the 15 seconds of silence which seem to be like an eternity. Realize that through silence, the Holy Spirit is working.
- Be a good listener. Try to listen actively. James 1:19 says, "My dear brothers and sisters, always be willing to listen and slow to speak." The point: STOP TALKING; LISTEN INSTEAD. Great leaders listen with their eyes, ears, and heart.
- Remind the group why it exists. Your job as a leader is to cast a compelling vision. Keep that purpose at the forefront of every Small Group meeting.
- Involve everyone. If everyone isn’t comfortable sharing their thoughts, your group size might be too big. Groups of over eight members often experience difficulty with this. In those cases, it’s best to divide the group into half, even if it's for a portion of the time.
- Here are more tips for facilitating weekly Small Group discussion.
Great Small Group leaders are committed to personal spiritual growth.
It's your job to build an environment where spiritual and personal growth is experienced. This usually happens when the leader has first experienced this growth. What are you doing to facilitate your own spiritual development?
- Serve at church (outside of leading Small Group)
- Commit to personal quiet time outside of church and Small Group preparations
- Read spiritually encouraging books (Here are a couple suggestions: Choosing to SEE by Mary Beth Chapman, Outlive Your Life by Max Lucado)
- Read the Bible
- Seek out a mentor
- Keep a short account with God. Confess your sin and ask for forgiveness.
Great Small Group leaders remember that God is in charge.
Praying for your Small Group means recognizing that the ministry is in God's hands, not yours. You were not selected to lead your group on your own. God chose you; He will be with you. Trust in His power and lean on Him for support and guidance.
Small Group leaders who are great realize that the ministry belongs to God and can place the results—numerical growth, discipleship, etc.—in His hands.
Great Small Group leaders spend time with group members outside of meetings.
It could be a Taco Tuesday, movie night, or gingerbread house building contest. It doesn't matter what the theme or activity is; the point is to spend time together—do LIFE together—outside of group meetings.
Another option to consider is inviting your group to attend an event at Sandy Cove—a Christian retreat and conference center—with an easy-to-access location, beautiful waterfront scenery, ministry-minded staff, overnight lodging, onsite dining facilities, and many recreational activities. Best of all, all their events and programs include Bible teaching and worship. Enjoy connecting with God and each other while having fun!
One final thought
There are so many other ways to become a great Small Group leader. The actions listed above only present a few ways to help you grow in your role.
Here are more helpful Small Group resources:
- 10 Habits of Highly Effective Small Group Leaders
- Eight Attributes of Healthy Small-Group Leaders
- 4 Suggestions to Deepen Your Small Group Prayer
- How to Pray for Your Small-Group Ministry
- 8 Habits of Effective Small Group Leaders (book)
- 8 Habits of Effective Small-Group Leaders (book synopsis)
- Small Group Vital Signs (book)
If you have tips, advice, or a helpful resource, mention them in the comment section below to share with everyone who reads this post.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 ESV
"Therefore encourage one another and build one another up . . . "